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Posts published in “Recipes”

Pound Cake Reloaded

centaur 1
So I tried making pound cake again, this time with success! I even brought it in to the Search Engine that Starts With a G to get comments from my coworkers, and none of them died (that I know of) and some of them even liked it (as reported on an anonymous form)! Even more of a success!

Here's what I did differently.

pound cake 2.0

First, I changed the recipe. This time, I adapted one from "I'm Just Here for More Food" by Alton Brown, a chef well known for his excellent, scientifically-based cooking. After cross-referencing against the Joy of Cooking, I felt safe leaving out the vanilla on the suspicion that last time's funny flavor wasn't just the Splenda but my fairly old vanilla flavoring (which I found was labeled "bourbon vanilla" which made me even more suspicious.) This left the recipe:
  • Three cups of allpurpose flour
  • Three large eggs
  • Two cups of sugar
  • One cup of buttermilk
  • One half pound of butter
  • One half teaspoon of salt
  • One half teaspoon of baking powder
Preparation was much easier this time with a $25 handheld motorized mixer from Fry's
Electronics
. I used a few tricks this time:
  • Allow butter to warm to room temperature by itself - no heating in the microwave
  • Mix the butter and sugar and blend until fluffy with no sugar grains visible in the mix
  • Beat egg yolks and whites together and mix with butter and sugar blend in 3 batches
  • Sift all the dry goods (salt, baking powder, flour) together 3 times
  • Alternate adding the dry goods and buttermilk to the mix
Also, I was more careful flouring the pan to prevent sticking. As before, the oven was preheated to 325, baking was 1 hour, and the cake was allowed to sit a bit before being taken out of the pan.

pound cake 2.0

Results: Yum. The texture was light and flaky, on the edge of being too flaky. The flavor was good, though slightly bland - it could have used more vanilla. The crust had a good texture, but it could have been a bit darker.

pound cake 2.0

This was a good cake, but I got even better feedback from my coworkers and from myself. The cake needed vanilla, a slightly better mixing, and a slightly better cooling procedure. Nevertheless, the pound cake served its desired function:

pound cake 2.0

I will follow up soon with the details on how I tweaked the recipe until it was "perfect".

-the Centaur

National Pound Cake Day and More

centaur 0
Thanks to Nancy Kress's blog, I just found out today, March 4th, is National Pound Cake Day.  Who knew? Well, apparently lots of people.  I haven't found out who invented this day based on one of my favorite foods ... but thanks!

Wonder if there's a National Kibbey Nayye Day?

-the Centaur

P.S. In researching this article, I was amazed at the bugs that crawled out from the rocks I turned over.  When looking for National Kibbeh Day I found this lovely bit of prejudice by the prolific Hytham Hammer on the Urban Dictionary:
kibbeh / kibbe
minced meat dish with almonds.
the damn Lebbos think that's a 'national' dish..well, fuck that. It's origins are North African... and yeah, it's taste-o!
Ok, Hytham, thanks for writing the entry.  But let's clear up a few things:
  1. I don't know what dish you're referring to, but kibbey as made in Lebanon does not contain almonds.  In Syria they sometimes put pine nuts in it, but in Lebanon a more typical recipe is: meat (lamb or mutton, or top round beef), bur'ghul (crushed wheat), minced onions, salt, black pepper, cumin, cinnamon.  Occasionally people add minced red peppers, allspice or mixed spice, and when I make it I do try those from time to time.  No almonds, unless you are talking about stuffed kibbey balls, which can contain almonds - in the filling, not in the kibbey, and saying kibbey requires almonds is like saying pizza requires anchovies just because you liked your mom's anchovy calzones. 
  2. "Lebbos"?
  3. Look, I don't care if the dish originated on Mars, it's still the national dish of Lebanon in that we eat it raw more than just about anyone else.  More generally, EVERYONE in the Middle East region has their own version of what EVERYONE ELSE eats, relabeled with their own names - good luck figuring out who invented what.  If you paid attention to the cuisine of the region rather than practicing some form of "my guys are the best" cultural imperialism, you'd find that out immediately.
  4. On the note of "my guys are the best" cultural imperialism, I reject it in all its forms. Send me your recipe - if it's better, it's better!
  5. Yes, it is tasty!
Hoy.  Suprises, surprises.

Pound Cake: One Pound Each of Butter, Sugar, Flour and Eggs

centaur 2
pound cake, soy milk and book spread

I enjoy a couple of slices of pound cake and milk as a late night dessert, but have difficulty finding pound cake that meets my standards. Forget the "loaf cakes" made by the big commercial bakeries: they're not bad, but they're not what I'm talking about.

ring pound cake


I'm talking about ring pound cakes. My neighbors made a dense, dry pound cake around Christmastime that was very good, but my favorites growing up were cakes you could get from Ingles: ring-shaped, light-textured, with a fluffy yellow center wrapped in a dark brown crust.

Usually there's only one store in any given region that makes these, the others sticking to loaf cakes. As I moved from Greenville, South Carolina, I found Kroger in Atlanta and later Safeway in San Jose had cakes that were similar, with slight variations in density and crust.

But there's something wrong in our modern commercial paradise: in the pursuit of the dollar or fashion businessmen tweak their good products until they become crappy and then discontinue them. I'm sure that's happened to all of you; and sure enough it happened to my pound cake.

First, Safeway started selling them only as half rings. Then they cut back on quantity. Then they replaced them entirely with "vanilla loafs" pre-cut entirely too thin. Whole Foods had decent-flavored loaf cakes, but they too have started pre-slicing them and cutting back on quantity.

I don't know what people have against pound cakes, but I can't find them locally baked, not even at bakeries - only icing-covered disasters, pudding cakes, and other variants, or alternatively Entenman's not-bad-but-not-good-enough butter loaves.

So, I am working on a pound cake recipe.

I made my first pound cake years ago, back in Atlanta. I was using the approximate "one pound" recipe: a pound of sugar, eggs, butter and flour. I didn't have a motorized mixer, and the hand mixing and stirring didn't cut it. It's fair to say this was a total FAIL. The flavor and crust were good, but the texture was dense as a brick and it was too hard to eat.

More recently, I tried again. I had planned to try this with sugar first, then introduce Splenda on the next cake, but dumb me forgot to buy sugar thinking we had some, which I discovered halfway through prepping the recipe. I adapted the recipe primarily from "Butter Sugar Flour Eggs" with a little help from the 1997 "Joy of Cooking":
  • One pound of unbleached allpurpose flour
  • One pound of eggs, separated
  • One pound of butter
  • Two and a half cups of Splenda baking sugar
  • 1/4tsp vanilla flavoring
  • "Just a pinch" of nutmeg and cinnamon
Preparation was much easier with a $25 handheld motorized mixer from Fry's, which cost less than the ingredients of the cake itself (to be fair, I think I bought other staples the night I bought the pound cake ingredients). The "trick" recommended by "Butter Sugar Flour Eggs" was to beat the egg yolks and egg whites separately; this worked out so-so in the egg whites step. In "Just Here For More Food" Alton Brown recommends a different method, which I will try next time.

pound cake and cookbook

That's right, all of the shots of pound cake shown in this article were from my first try of this recipe. It was a beautiful looking cake. The texture of this cake was slightly dense, but smooth and serviceable. The crust was very slightly dry but serviceable. The flavor I have to say was poor - it was in the right ballpark, one might even say it tasted right, but it had a chemical aftertaste. And I'm sad to say I don't think it was the Splenda ... I may have simply added too much vanilla extract.

two slices

I've been consuming this cake for a while for my late night reading sessions, but I finally broke down and got the Whole Foods cake for comparison, having one slice of each. Ah, drat - the Whole Foods cake was much better, both in texture and in flavor, though it didn't rise to the level of the long lost Ingles, Kroger or Safeway ring cake.

one slice

Oh well. Better luck next time.
-the Centaur